86? Try 73!

With the arrival of the Toyota 86 South African motorists are now faced with a dilemma never before encountered; “is this really a cool Toyota?”

Now I by no means wish to challenge Toyota on quality, reliability or any other ability but the brand isn’t the first that springs to mind when the lads in the pub start asking about cool cars. The 86 may have taken bold steps towards coolness, but I think Toyota hit the cool mark a long time ago. The Toyota Corona is not a common sight on South African roads, and indeed the 1973 Corona I had the opportunity to drive definitely turned a few heads, something I’m sure doesn’t happen in other Toyotas.

The Corona’s motoring life span began in 1957 and ended in 2002, which is an impressive run. The name Corona is derived from the Latin word Crown and my experience in the Old Dame supports its name.

Of interest to the motoring history buffs out there, the Corona was also manufactured as a pick up and was eventually replaced by the Hilux in 1969.

My Corona for the week was a 2.0L Coupe, and even after all these years she had some serious pull. To me this is the car Toyota should have turned to a long time ago to draw inspiration, driving around town I couldn’t help but smile when people looked on at the car. On one occasion a taxi pulled up alongside me on the freeway in what seemed like a Pirates of the Caribbean manoeuvre attempting to board, only to have a passenger begin negotiations for the sale of the car.

So what’s the point of talking about a car born in the seventies, well for one it’s a car you actually have to drive, which is a feature many manufacturers seem determined to leave out of their new models. A quick trip to the corner store in the Corona leaves you feeling like American outlaw, couple that with a stupid grin on your face and you are good to go.

The car itself seemed ahead of its time, featuring a red leather interior option, frameless glass in the doors and a menacing front end which let its American counter parts know the Corona was no Asian bubble car.

Sadly, and I say this in my opinion, the Corona had its heyday in the 1970’s and as the years went on seemingly fell victim to the same design styles as all the classics did in the 1980’s and 1990’s, as it drove towards mediocreville.

Let’s hope the 86 inherited some of that Corona magic.

Justin Stephenson


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